Designing for Gen Z

An insight into designing for Gen Z

Apple Store, New York

Retail is always changing and reimagining itself, no more so than in the current climate where retailers are looking for new ways of engaging existing customers while in tandem striving to entice new customers.

Working with global brands Mortar & More have had the opportunity to look at new directions for retail, researching the reimagining what might come next. We were traveling the globe exploring cutting edge spaces created by some of the world’s leading brands, and learning about new technologies which can be integrated within the retail environment which push the customer experience in to new territories. While travel feels like a distant memory right now, we’re planning and looking forward to picking up where we left off and continuing our adventures!

What we have learnt is that there is a generation fast approaching their independence and who will also become one of the biggest consumer groups to date. Gen Z, an educated generation not to be ignored and who are key to the future success of brick-and-mortar retail. They are a group who have set principles which they are guided by through all their interactions with brands, and they appreciate value in the experience they encounter both online and instore.

Hema Supermarket, Shanghai, Alibaba Group

In 2020, Mortar & More carried out an in-depth analysis of Gen Z to understand what this fastest-growing consumer group anticipates from their retail experiences. What attracts them to a brand and service and the interactions they anticipate from a brand.

With a tendency to base brand loyalty around a company’s ethics, it’s not fleeting either. They will happily move to another brand should the one their currently invested in doesn’t stand by their core values. Scouring the market for alternative offers more in line with their own values is easy for this game-changing generation. They are fast and efficient at their research, moving and sharing across multiple platforms.

They are the highest users of online real-time platforms and are heavily influenced by others they follow. To engage with this generation it is important to tap into their influencers and preferred online social networks.

Aesop Stores, Bordeaux, Fukuoka, Shinjuku

They seek brands which embrace causes they identify with and which have strong ethics. With this in mind, while a brand might reflect this online and through their social channels, it’s important for the retail spaces to clearly reflect and highlight these values in the design and in-store interactions. Aesop is a great example of a designed space which reflects the values of their products and how they are produced. 100% vegan, bottles made from recycled glass and no animal testing, their retail environments are pared back, refined and sophisticated. No two are alike, but their aim is to reflect their product by providing respite from an otherwise cluttered world. Their spaces maintain a discipline of being stripped back and minimal.

Whilst enjoying interactive learning based platforms they also value peer-based information and rely on their own hands-on experience. Immersive store interactions are becoming more and more important to engage all generations, but in particular, Gen Z.

Nike Flagship store, Shanghai

The first Nike House of Innovation in Shanghai is a shining example of multiple user experiences available to customers across four levels and 41,150 square feet.  At every opportunity they are enticing the customer to interact with the products. Dance challenges in their trainers, Nike by You where customers can design their own products, and a Nike Expert Studio where customers can book an appointment to experience unrivaled access to gear up. Fitting rooms are equipped with lighting which the customer can personalise and there are exclusive ranges which have been localised to this store only to further entice the customer in. They are pushing the boundaries of the Omni-Channel retail experience providing exclusive in-store offers to members. Once they swipe their phones on entering the store they are notified of offers as they roam.

Nike Flagship store, Shanghai

While Gen Z spends the most time online carrying out research prior to engaging with brands, they still value face to face interactions and advice from the well experienced. This can be applied to the retail banking sector. There is an opportunity for banks to tap into this Generation leveraging the legacy within their brand and their inherent experience, a key element which is lacking in a neobank. The experiences can be far-reaching looking at all age groups and easily tailoring services which will suit all generations. Providing areas for collaborative learning, space for people to get quick work tasks done while they wait, or space to promote local businesses. These implementations not only provide a universal banking experience but also helps to promote a halo effect which has the ability to attract new customers.

Caixa Imagin Bank, Barcelona

Our research is far-reaching and is core to our overall design process. It enables Mortar & More as a team to create and develop new and exciting design opportunities while looking at strategic factors to attract either a specific customer base or to provide a space which is open to all generations, on behalf of our clients. The unified alignment of the digital retail environment and the physical retail environment provides a basis for endless design opportunities and digital integrations which will help to engage Gen Z as they begin to illustrate their consumer power.

Author: Liz Dolan.